Category: 3D Images

Rare & Expensive View-Master Items

For an overview of View-Master collecting see this page.

This is an ever-evolving and updating list of rare and expensive View-Master items. I’m not an expert on this topic. They do exist but I wouldn’t count myself among them. These are just items I’ve found that go for quite a lot of cash on the View-Master market.

For more on this, check out my spreadsheet, which has some notes about values. You can see my Pinterest board of rare and expensive View-Master items I’ve stumbled across. Also, for current prices, check ebay.

Rare View-Master – Unusual Reels/Sets

  • Any sealed reels catch a premium, assuming the package is intact.
  • Some promotional reels (these vary widely and may be subject to the popularity of whatever is being promoted on the reel–often entertainment related promotional reels are more expensive but scarcity is a bigger indicator — see the spreadsheet linked above for more notes on this topic). Some expensive sets I’ve seen:
    • Bates Motel (A&E TV Show)
    • Fallout 3 SimTek 1000
  • The 150-reel set: Stereoscopic Range Estimator Naval Aviation Training World War II (Complete sets of WWII Army/Navy training reels has gone for $400+ for complete set, includes a box, reels and two Model B viewers).
  • The original and completed Stereoscopic Atlas of Human Anatomy. Includes 23 volumes and 221 reels. ($500+)
  • Mushrooms in their Natural Habitat (33 reels)

Rare Gift Sets:

  • Dukes of Hazzard Canister set (1982)
  • Dune
  • Monster Gift Pack
  • Nations of the World Library
  • Tron Gift Set (1981)

Rare/Pricier Reel Sets:

  • Astroworld Houston ($100+)
  • Cartoon Carnival
  • Expo ’70 in Japan (three three-reel sets)
  • Green Hornet
  • The Munsters ($100+)
  • Tasmania Australia

Rare Individual Reels:

  • #1305 President Kennedy in Ireland (pulled from shelves after his death, I’ve seen these go for around $500)
  • Girl Scouts Serve Their Country
  • Movie Preview Reels from 1953
  • “Blue ring” reels, gold stickers in the middle, “buff” colored reels fetch higher prices. These are the oldest View-Master reels before the standard white reels came into being.
  • “Hand-lettered” reels sometimes get higher prices than typeset but not significantly more unless hard to find
  • Tour of View-Master Plant (and any internal documents or reels)

Rare View-Master Viewers

  • View-Master 500 Stereo Projector
  • View-Master Model A with large lenses
  • View-Master Model D (the most expensive of easily acquired viewers). The better quality, the better the price. Usually you’ll pay a premium for having the original silver medallion on it and the original box). $100-$200
  • View-Master Model E in Red, Blue-Gray or Cream
  • Model K (especially in unusual colors)
  • Tweety Bird Viewer from Six Flags ($200-ish on eBay for new in box as of 2018)
  • Mickey Mouse Face Viewer in *excellent* condition is harder to find but not particularly expensive

Other Rare View-Master Items

  • Coppery Brown Reel Case (as opposed to cream/maroon; turquoise is less common as well)
  • Original photographs used to produce reels
  • Original dioramas created to photograph for reel sets (extremely rare, from what I understand)
  • Advertising: in-store display items
  • Personal stereo mounts
  • Personal Stereo Camera Film Cutter

Why I Collect View-Master

I’ve had several people reach out to me recently to talk to me about View-Master collecting. Weird for multiple reasons not the least of which is that I could point you in the direction of several people who are much more dedicated to View-Master collecting than I am.

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I liked View-Master as a kid because it dovetailed nicely with my love of movies, TV, and escapism in general. I’ve always loved visual media. I have a degree in film studies, and I’ve always loved picking things apart. I didn’t know this was called semiotics when I first started doing it, but I guess that’s a big piece of what I liked about View-Master.

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Other things I like about it include seeing things I normally wouldn’t or couldn’t see, playing with a mid-century novelty device, getting to peek into the past, picking apart and considering the images and their composition and meaning, as well as the device’s overall connection to pop culture over many decades. I also have this pretty sweet spreadsheet I get to work on whenever I get new reels, and that is deeply satisfying.

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There are also individual reels and recurring themes I enjoy. That list includes flaming dolphins, weird dioramas, great dioramas, sad animals in zoos, images of countries I’ve never visited (often from the 1940s), the delightfully crazy way people once bored holes into ancient trees just for the novelty, the way folks could touch all the walls on a cave tour and didn’t even care they were ruining it for future generations, and the way white ladies sit overdressed and contemplative while staring at a landscape, to name a few.

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There’s certainly an argument to be made that View-Master is a particularly upper middle class and white thing. I don’t think I’m qualified to do that topic justice but it’s important to acknowledge it, I think. Reels and viewers have never been expensive so they weren’t intended for the wealthy, but the images presented in the reels, by and large, offers a glimpse into the destinations of wealthy or worldly white people on vacation at mid-century. I’m not sure if I found it relatable or aspirational when I first started collecting. I didn’t grow up taking vacations regularly. We did little road trips and saw lots of interesting landscapes along the way, however.

One thing I always liked about View-Master, once I began learning about it, was that the creator thought of it as a way to bring the world to everyone. I liked that idea very much. And it’s something I always think about when I see a reel on a topic I haven’t seen before. I liked that they have reels on the history of Chinese art, on how to identify a variety of mushroom types, and that it was used as a tool to teach pilots.

I like it because I still think it’s a tool and a toy that teaches me new things all the time.

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